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Showing posts from 2007

Hacking the iPod Touch / iPhone - Part 3

Right! so you had plenty of time to purchase the touch or the iphone and Steve had enough time to cut me a check for the previous 2 articles. But since the later didn't happen, lets just concentrate on the former - but this time in combination with GNU/Linux. Once the new line of ipods were released, it was soon obvious that third party media players, such as gtkpod/amarok/winamp, were no longer able to sync with them. Whether this was intentional or just a consequence of Apple improving things will depend on who you ask :) Fortunately though, (ipod Linux?) hackers managed to figure out a way to get syncing working again - in just a couple of days, might I add! Unfortunately the ipod touch/iphone is another beast altogether! Neither support the USB mass storage modes and instead rely on a proprietary message passing method that is yet to be deciphered.So AFAIK, neither of the two devices can sync over USB as far as gtkpod is concerned. Hopefully someone will figure it out or we m

Christmas came early for me this year...

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My command center went through a major overhaul this year a couple of weeks ahead of Christmas as I upgraded my 19" LCD monitor for 32" LCD TV. This was good because I now no longer need to juggle swap A/V cables when ever I want to switch between watching Dialog TV, Playing the wii and ps2. The BIG screen was fabulous but I was and still am a bit disappointed when viewing non HD content. Even though this Samsung TV is not that bad, its not so high end to have an upscaler needed to convert the image from 480i to 720p. Unfortunately as far as DialogTV goes, I'm going to have to be stuck with SVideo at best (actually Composite seems to have better quality where). On the Wii and the PS2 end, I'll have to try and get a component cable, which I could not find in SL. But still those two don't support full HD. On the otherhand, once you plug in the Mac mini via VGA, things looked great. Playing DVDs also works well because a computer can upscale video. Unfortunately

Why KDE4 (might) suck!

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I've been a kde user for very long time, since from before version 3.0. I vaguely remember being excited with version 3.0 to the point I was using the beta releases on a daily basis. Similarly I have been anticipating kde 4.0, the next major release since 3.0 I suppose. But it seems that is just its problem! Its too much of a major release to be pushing out in such a hurry. I have been following kde 4 from time to time by reading some of the discussions on the panel-devel list, trying out the alpha releases via the SUSE live cd and of course discussing with Siraj , our local kde developer, on the internals (technology and community wise). While things have improved a bit, with each release of kde 4, its far from ready. We are now at RC1 and the announcement says its ready for prime time testing. Building on this, the majority of applications included in KDE 4.0 are now usable for day to day use. The KDE Release Team has recently underlined this by calling on the community to

Hacking the iPod Touch / iPhone - Part 2

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Previously on Part 1 ... Just kidding! Scroll down and read it your self. Its been a while, and I think I'm falling into the "Oh twittering is so much more easier than blogging" trap. So if you've been following my twitter , then you'd know that I've been discovering quite a few uses for the iTouch.Unfortunately its late and I think you'll have to wait for another post before I get into all that :( So instead, lets first cover some of the basics. Freeing up some space for 3 rd party Apps I'm assuming you have already setup the openssh package as well as the BSD Subsystem, there by enabling you to remotely login or copy files (scp). If not, use the Installer app to install those two packages. One of the problems you'll quickly realize as you begin to install more and more apps, is a pop up message notifying you that your running out of disk space! This is due to the root partition (/) which also happens to hold /Applications, being only 300MB.

Hacking the iPod Touch - Part 1

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So now that I had a little time to play around with this cool gadget, I think its time that I shared some of fun in hacking the iPod Touch. But first a friendly government warning : <disclaimer> WARNING: Hacking gadgets is known to cause bricking and in some instances may even void your warranty. As a general rule assume you won't be able to upgrade your firmware in the future. If your doing this, do it AT YOUR OWN RISK! </disclaimer> Don't worry in reality its almost impossible to brick the device since you can restore it using iTunes. So if you're still with me then "welcome to a brave new world of hacking!". First let me explain how the iphone/ipod touch hack works in layman's terms. TIFF Exploit The key ingredient for performing the hack is around a bug discovered in libtiff , a library used widely to provide tiff image handling capabilities. This bug can be used to cause a buffer overflow , allowing arbitrary code to be executed. Such ex

Its been 3 years...

And I'm still here! That's right, its been exactly 3 years as of today (31st) since I got into the world of blogging. For the curious here is my first blog post which I made out of UCSC's MSc computer lab, under not so good circumstances :) Anyway thats history. Now lets talk about the future. From today onwards, I'm hoping to start micro-blogging on twitter in addition to current blog. Sometimes I find little things or interesting bits that I never get around to blog about because its either too little information or I just don't get the time. Well hopefully (no promises), I'll try to do that in the form of a micro-blog using of my mobile devices. So I hope to see you at twitter! . I'm off to configuring my mobile clients.

iPod Touch turned out to be the one!

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so I had my reservations about the iphone mainly due to the lack of 3G but also other reasons. Instead what wanted was really a good PDA device thats flexible and not too limiting - some thing like the upcoming N810. But all that changed when I walked in to BTOptions hoping to checkout an FM Transmitter for my ipod. That's when I saw they had the latest iPod touch 16GB. What happened next was unbelievable in that I remember handing my credit card before blacking out. Ok so may be I'm being a bit too dramatic. The touch was a device which had already been under my radar but I did't think I'd actually buy this first-gen device. But I did and here is why: * it was staring me in the face * price was close to getting from the US * runs on UNIX aka BSD though would have prefered Gnu/Linux * Ultra portable, scratch proof surface * Nice UI and input method * BUT ABOVE MOST - It can be hacked! So here I am after having installed two dozens of nice home brew apps lying in be

This could be the one...

So I've been thinking of getting Nokia's Linux tablet PC ever since the 770 was released a couple of years ago. When the N800 came that was a major improvement over the 770 and I was hoping to buy that. Well now, Nokia has released a further updated version, the N810 and this just might be the one. Due to release in Novement, the N810 has a nice touch sensitive screen of 800x480, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS (YES!), FM-Radio, FM-Transmitter!(Awesome), QWERTY slide keyboard (and virtual keyboard), VGA camera, up to 8GB SD, 14 days standby and 5 days being always online. The only thing missing is Wi-Max which is to be released sometime later next year. Check it out. http://www.linuxdevices.com/news/NS3669465936.html

Tired of Vista? well then downgrade to XP

Microsoft's biggest enemy is probably itself. Getting users to upgrade to Vista hasn't received the kind of welcome many thought. Microsoft has tried hard to get users to switch using the "Wow starts Now!" campaign and even taking desperate measures such as launching a " Get the facts campaign against itself ", similar to the discontinued "Gets the fact on Linux" but stating that XP's flaws.With all that failing, recently they started providing Vista Business and Ultimate users (aka users who paid BIG $$$) an option to downgrade to XP . Many vendors including IBM , Dell, Fujitsu and HP are offering this downgrade option or providing XP as an option. Given all this, who can blame users that have been stuck with XP for so long. Asking them to upgrade is like asking them to move from the home they grew up in, even if its supposedly a better and more secure home. At the end of the day M$ is to blame for dumbing down the majority of users to a p

Hotplugging a Secondary Display on Linux

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GNU/Linux has been ready for the desktop for quite some time. And yet, when trying to tell the world about how ready Desktop Linux is, using a well prepared Open Office presentation, I am often faced with having to smile and say, oops looks like I need to restart X windows before my computer [Linux] can detect the LCD projector. Lets face it, there are still some glitches here and there but the FOSS community is working hard at solving those problems, one by one. One such problem has been the inability to plug in an external display such as an external monitor or LCD projector and get it to "just work" without having to restart X Windows. That was until Xorg 7.3 came along! Ever since I heard of Xorg 7.3 a couple of months earlier, I waited eagerly. Xorg 7.3 was finally released earlier this month. Unfortunately I was too busy to install it (i wanted to update other gentoo packages before I did this). Finally this weekend, I managed to upgrade my system (emerge -avuDN wor

SFD 2007 was HUGE & Hot!

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Software Freedom Day concluded on the 15th with several events happening around Sri Lanka and the world ofcourse. The Excel World event, which I helped organize, turned out pretty well. It could ofcourse, have been a lot better if not for the matches that kept people @ home. But hey, who's complaining? Not me! We had a lot of fun setting up the place. No one was in any particular hurry and we took our time. I got up about 8:30am or so and took another hour to get ready. Then grabbed a bunch of stuff like power strips, wireless dongles, power cords, mice, keyboard -- basically what ever I could lay my eyes on, and stuffed it in a luggage bag. I also picked up my desktop, my x-monitor (now dad's), and the mac mini (which I forgot to take) and headed off to TLC to pick up the APITT guys. By the time we got to Excel it was close to 11AM. We then went to APITT to pick up rest of the stuff and it was probably around 12PM we actually started to set the place up. But help was on

Come celebrate Software Freedom Day tomorrow @ Excel World

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Just came home after dropping off some items at APITT, which is a convenient storage location due to proximity, for tomorrow's SFD event at Excel World. As usual, the venue got finalized at the last minute (last minute being this evening)! Tomorrow should be a busy day as nothing has been setup as yet. I am planning to head towards Excel in the morning along with the APITT LUGers to set the place up.I'm planning to bring a couple of my machines at home, like my recently dissected Mac Mini , or even perhaps my first notebook, the Sony Vaio which can only be used as disk less think client, which I showed off yesterday, at the SLIIT SFD event. This is the 4th SFD event being held since its inception and this year seems to have the most events being organized around the country. Here are some of the local SFD events that are, or have been organized. Anyway I'll blog more about the event tomorrow, live from the Excel World. Not sure if you should attend? May be this wil

Using a download accelerator with apt-get

If dist-upgrading your Ubuntu or Debian GNU/Linux distro is taking a considerable amount of time (or says it will), then this might be a useful tip to speed things up a bit. This is nothing new really; something I used to frequently back in the day when Debian was my primary desktop disto. You see I got sick of waiting for debs to complete downloading, not to mention the apt database being locked, so I wrote a small perl script which used prozilla to quickly download the debs into /var/cache/apt/archives. Recently, my g/f told me to dist-upgrade her Ubuntu box, since she didn't have broadband @ home and thats when I remembered that I have forgotten where I'd put that script. So I wrote new one that was an even smaller script. But before that, I wrote a tiny bash "one liner" which can also be used download debs but it may not work with some debs that have to be renamed by escaping some characters. But nevertheless it too can be useful for downloading one or two pa

Be an Open Source Guitar Hero!

Undoubtedly one of the best games that came on the PS2 and more recently on the 360 is Guitar Heros II . Ever since I got my hands on this came, I haven't as yet swapped the DVD to play another game on my PS2. For those who haven't heard of this game, it basically lets you "rock on" to some popular and not so popular rock tunes as if playing a guitar. You could use the standard D Pad game controller or for the ultimate experience purchase a Guitar controller. Unfortunately I don't have the guitar controller though, and would probably buy it if I can find it in a local store. I wanted this so bad, I almost picked it up from a shop that was situated in Dream Land. Unfortunately the alarm woke me up before I could pay using my credit card. So whats better than Guitar Heros 2? No its not Guitar Heros 3, but rather a Free & Open Source clone called Frets on Fire! . Sure it doesn't look as good as GH2 but its got some feature that makes it better. But befo

Will the real "Geek with an Attitude" please stand up, please stand up!

Ah just came across another Geek-with-an Attitude . Seems like an interesting Blog with "Technological advice you can actually use". Now excuse me while I run off to perform a DoS. Just kidding PEacE out

My Mac Mini taken apart and put back together

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My Mac mini had been pretty much dead for the last couple of months. It just wouldn't boot and would give a gray screen (without the Apple logo), after the Apple chime. Following advice on Apples's Support site , I tried the weird key combinations that were supposed to clear the CMOS and other settings, but that didn't fix the problem. I was thinking about taking this for repairs to either BTOptions or DMS but both will take a fair amount just to open it (and it may well be fair, because opening and servicing this thing is a pain) and possibly more to fix (warranty had lapsed). I felt adventurous and as if there was nothing to loose. The fact it was a Friday night and after the end of a long week, I felt the need for a change from thinking about software to may be thinking of hardware. But before I could give much thought to the idea, I found myself tearing the Mac Mini apart. I've seen a couple of videos on Youtube on opening up the mac and it looked easy enough

myPhone - Waiting for my kinda iPhone

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Photograph by: Eliya Selhub The iPhone is a pretty good looking phone and functional phone by the looks of it and it might actually end up being a hit in the US, if it wasn't for the high price tag. While $500 - $600 seems like a good deal for us Asians and some of us are used to spending that much on a phone it seems to be uncommon in the US. They're still using crappy old cheap models over there :), which generally come for a real cheap price or for free as part of the plan. So I really don't think the iPhone as it is, is going to be anything like an iPod. But it can be like an iPod, only if Apple did a few things more. Here are a list of things I want on myPhone: 3G - Its great this thing has EDGE but I wouldn't dish out so much and not get anything that hasn't got 3G User pluggable SIM card - What were they thinking! Oh wait physical security to please AT&T. Do we have to dissect just to change the SIM card? Give us a slot to insert/remove the SI

"FOSS-ed on Windows" is on tomorrow

They didn't think we'd do it. We didn't think we'd do it! But we're gonna do it ... tomorrow. For a change, we are gonna temporally hold off on telling you to switch away from the Windows platform and instead tell you how you can make your Windows experience so much better. Guess who's sponsoring? Its those guys from Redmond - Microsoft. FOSS-Ed for windows will show you how you can save time, money and be in control of the software. There will also be plenty on interoperability with other Operating Systems & other applications. Why flush hundreds of thousands of Rupees down a proprietary product when there are many free alternatives to choose from? For more info http://www.foss.lk/events/2007/fossedforwindows Ok now that the "advertisement disguised as a blog post" is out of the way :), I'd like to invite your guys interested in using FOSS on Windows to drop in for the event. The pricing is a pretty good deal considering its a 3 day even

Goodbye Prof.

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Yesterday I attended Prof. VK Samaranayake's funeral proceedings which took place on a gloomy onset, as if the sky was about to break down and cry but was holding off so to not cause any discomfort to the event. Many from the Academia, IT industry, Media, Government Bodies, Students, Family and friends had come to bid farewell to the "Father of IT in Sri Lanka", whom to many will remain a hero and a role model. A quick look at the online condolence guest book is all thats needed to see the variety of people's lives he has touched.

Hey Micro$oft.... Sue me!

Desperately seeking Micro$oft makes some dubious claims when it accuses that GNU/Linux and FOSS violates some 235 of M$'s patents. With each passing day it is evident that this latest of a series of unsuccessful maneuvers on M$'s part is done just so they can create enough FUD to possibly kill off the threat or make some money off of Fortune 500 companies through licensing. As I posted earlier , you could only do so as long as you don't disclose the supposed patent violations that GNU/Linux and other FOSS apps are said to be violating. So this is turning out to be a new business model for M$, where they can sit back and Steve Balmer can play Tony Soprano and make extra cash. Well its about time Micro$oft put up or Shut up! Either disclose the so called patents that we are supposedly violating, sue us or just shut up! Since the former doesn't seem to be happening a couple of people started signing a petition called "Sue me first". It only takes one person

Finally got a Flickr Pro Account

I was wondering how many photos I had on flickr. Because with the free account, 200 was all I could see. The first time I tried to fulfill my curiosity, a couple of months back, to find myself utterly disappointed and annoyed that I couldn't just pay the $24.95 and unlock my photos, because Paypal didn't recognize Sri Lanka as a country worth doing business with. So I gave up, even though I was aware that you could get it done through someone who had an AMEX CC. Anyway long story-short is I finally upgraded and was amazed to find I had a little over 500 photos! (more than twice the limit). So if you know me and want to go down memory lane or just want to see how crappy I was at taking pictures then (not that I'm a lot better now), check out my Flickr Photo Blog . Don't forget to click the last page :)

Spider-Man 3 - Not a complete waste of time

I've just returned home from watching the block buster hit, Spider Man 3 and thought I'd blog my thoughts while its still fresh on my mind. A word of caution for anyone who hasn't as yet watched the movie - don't read this if your like me in that you don't like to have any pretenses about the movie before you watch it. While I promise not to outline the plot, if there was any, chances are your going to have a pretense. This is also why I generally don't like to watch movie trailers, read reviews before watching the actual movie, though I won't necessarily shy away from them should I accidentally bump into one. On the other hand if your the type that researches before you spend time and money on a movie, then read on. I had high hopes for Spider Man 3, so much that the second I learned of its existence in town, I immediately wanted to book tickets. So for the first time I tried booking an e-ticket using Dialog's much advertised, 444 service that was excl

Honey, I sunk the ipod

It was the worse day of my (ipod's) life. It drowned a feet under water for god knows how long. What probably was 5 - 10 minutes must have felt like an eternity. As of now, my ipod is in a coma, waiting for me to wake her up. It all began a little under 36 hrs ago, when it was raining hard. I came home yesterday a little earlier following a wedding and thus managed to avoid traffic and more importantly the heavy rain. After a little bit of relaxation listening to the rest of a podcast from my drive back home, I began to settle into reading a book, when my sister said she was about to go off to work. She being a doctor, has to generally deal with a crazy time table. By this time it was raining hard and fast. So I offered to drop her off, which she accepted gladly and as usual took my ipod along to keep me company. We didn't get too far before land was nowhere and water was everywhere! This was not my first time crossing a pool of water by car, so I wasn't as scared as I

Screenshot of my new (shiny) desktop

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I'll let the screenshot speak for itself. But just in case your wondering this is Gentoo GNU/Linux running the beryl Window Manager (WM), on top of KDE desktop environment, with screenlets as widgets/gadgets, kiba-dock for an OSX like dock and kbfx with a dark theme as the next-gen kde menu. That's it really!

M$ & GNU/Linux: A way out of the patent mess or the best weapon to take over the world!

Ooops it happened again! The second cross patent licensing deal between M$ and another company - Samsung this time around. While this deal may not be as controversial as the first deal between M$ and Novell, its nevertheless going to have a bad taste with the community. But I just realized GNU/Linux might actually be a ticket out of this whole patent mess we are in. It goes something like this: A claims to B that by using GNU/Linux B is violating patents of A. B in return reminds A that it too might be violating some of B's patents because A also happens to use GNU/Linux. A and B come to an agreement not to sue each other over patents. C comes along and does the same with A & B In other words A, B and C can cross license their patents without actually having to disclose the patents they are cross licensing in the first place. This is because if any company (A, B or C) discloses a patent which Linux is supposedly violating, that piece of code will be instantly removed, l

Watching the Worldcup over WiFi

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Sure it doesn't beat watching the match on the big screen. But wouldn't it still be cool if you could didn't have to always sit in front of the tv all time as the match went on. Well today I decided to play around with the idea since Sri Lanka wasn't playing anyway. Now my home isn't physically networked in anyway so I have to rely on the slower WiFi to do the job. Worse still is the fact that my WiFi Router is upstairs where our phone line happens to terminate, (it doubles as an ADSL Router) and so the signal reception is pretty bad (about 40%). Its been a while since I played around with VLC and I knew it has improved somewhat since I last had a go at it. Mainly the addition of H.264 for better quality at lower bit rates. So after playing around with several codecs, I settled with h.264 (AVC) after discovering a combination that worked (you can't just mix arbitrary video encapsulation containers with a given codec and expect it to just work). Following are

FOSS project: Sahana wins an FSF award!

The Sahana project , a large scale disaster/relief management software developed soon after the Asian Tsunami and subsequently used during several other disasters, has won an award titled "2006 social benefit award", from the Free Software Foundation (FSF) . I myself feel proud and fortunate to have been involved with this project during its inception, and wish it will continue to be useful during unfortunate times. At the same time, I wish, there would be a less need for the deployment of Sahana, as a result of lesser number of devastation disasters. I think those now directly involved with the project wish for the same thing. More info (with pics at): Sahana wins the 2006 social benefit award Anuradha Weeraman's Photo Blog

My iPod now runs Linux...

Inspired by my favorite Linux podcast, " The Linux Action Shooooooooow " (thats how its pronounced), where each week Chris would talk about some new cool gadget that supposedly runs Linux. On the same spirit, I'd like to announce, the above. I managed to install Linux on my somewhat recent 30GB video ipod. While ipodlinux has been around for quite some time now, the newer 5.5G (Generation) ipods weren't supported. Well all that has changed as of late February 2007. Installation was quite easy , and I didn't even have to backup my data and repartition anything. Installation was actually quite easy due to the fact I had a Macpod (an ipod formatted using iTunes on running on my Mac Mini's OSX) which had put an hfsplus file system. Since hfsplus was a UNIX file system (POSIX compliant), I could just install Linux over it. In contrast, for the majority of people that are running their ipod on FAT32, the process is slightly more complicated, required a separate

Previously on FOSSEd Kandy ...

Last weekend, we had our first FOSSEd on wheels event in Kandy . It was organized by the faculty of science, University of Peradeniya and was held on the 3rd and 4th (Sat & Sun) of March. Since I had other commitments, I was only able to attend the event on the 3rd. I did a small presentation on deciding to choose a GNU/Linux distribution, a task that can be quite overwhelming, considering the hundreds of distributions out there . Nevertheless, I think I pulled it off by recommending they initially just try the Ubuntu distro , that was distributed to them at the event. Just to make things a little bit easier, I demoed a live Ubuntu installation (using VMPlayer), which took only a little more than 15 minutes. There was good balance in the number of attendees from universities, schools and a few from the industry who participated by asking questions as the event progressed. All in all, I thought it was one of the best FOSSEd events we had in a while. Check out the following link

Dell should be punished!

When I read the, once "Highly Confidential" - but now public (as a result of the Iowa anti-trust case), email thread from Redmond, it just cracked me up. Sounding much like a bunch of kids fighting over who's daddy is better, this is further proof that M$ is so damn uncertain of its self. Here are some funny moments from the memo: "This is just life. I am not giving up. I don't have a penguin in my basement. I LOVE windows which is why I want us to face this so we can figure it out." "Did Russ Holt know you were there, I can't imagine he would be this blatant against us if he knew you were there. " "I was sitting right across the panel from him. We waved at each other briefly before the panel started." "I want them to think very, very carefully about when and which forums they decide to push Linux very, very hard. Today, they do not. When they do, you can bet, behaviour will evolve." "He said Windows three t

The Darker side of Vista...

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There is a darker side to Vista, one that far exceeds, beyond the dark theme that greets you after login in! Vista has taken, "Restricting the user's rights to do what they can", to an unparallel level, never seen under any previous OS to date. Most of these restrictions, were designed to set the stage for the inevitable, widespread adoption of technologies such as HD content that are currently at a bleeding edge state, thus expensive and not widely used. As a result, for many of the early users of Vista, these defective restrictions are likely to go ununnoticed and then it will be too late... for all of us. What am I talking about? you ask? Is it about activation thats got a number of tries attached to it? Or the fact that you can't change your motherboard without Vista considering the license invalid? Or perhaps the fact that you no longer can install Vista inside a virtualized platform such VMware or Xen? While all of the above restrictions can be thought of a

Sleeping on the net

Well, I can finally fall asleep, (in bed) while browsing the net on my PSP over wireless. Thats right ADSL has finally come home. I was waiting for it to come to our neighborhood for the past two years or so. For those can recall would know that I had to go through several painful temporary solutions with nothing much to settle on. At last now, I can finally disconnect that CDMA piece of crap! Getting the ADSL connection wasn't painless either. Since it was my dad who owned the phone line, I had to get him to sign the forms and even submit a photo copy of his ID since he couldn't be there in person. The real problem was that I only got to know about it, only after trying to handover the filled form. So I had to make two trips over two days just for them to accept the application. But that wasn't the end of it. I initially handed over the form to the WTC Teleshop, and waited for about a week before calling to check on progress. Thats when I realized what seemed to have

My first post for 2007!

Been really really busy the last couple of weeks at work that I really wasn't in the mood for blogging. But what better way to break the ice, and kick off blogging in 2007 than to do it on your Birthday. Yes! you heard me right folks, its that day of the year, when your not sure whether you should be happy and excited or anxious and lost. I've just hit 30, a couple of hours ago and at this point, I'm still contemplating how I should feel about it. Should I declare myself as an old person or as a (not so old) person. Oh!, how the passing of a few hours can try to change your (outlook on) life :) And thats' sort of how I feel about this year. I'm very excited about 2007, from a technological standpoint, but not so sure with the way the world is ticking. But first, here are some things why I think things are going to be exciting this year: Linux Desktop Effects : Compiz and Beryl blew away the competition, and excited anyone who saw them. Expect more exciting d